THE number of beds at the new Townlands Hospital in Henley could be cut by around
THE number of beds at the new Townlands Hospital in Henley could be cut by around two thirds, the Henley Standard can reveal.
Residents were told originally that 18 beds would be included as part of the redevelopment of the site into a £16million “health campus”.
Instead, health chiefs are now considering “buying” about five beds from the 64–bed care home at the new complex which will be run by the Orders of St John Care Trust.
They believe 18 beds would be too many and that they would rarely be full or used by people from the Henley area.
They also want to establish an emergency multi–disciplinary unit, an outreach from the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, offering a range of day services.
The change in thinking was due to be revealed at a public meeting last night (Thursday). Dr Andrew Burnett, a senior partner at Sonning Common Health Centre and the south–east Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group locality director, said it would be pointless to have beds that were not “clinically or economically sensible”.
“What made sense when the plans were drawn up doesn’t necessarily make sense now,” he said. “We’re absolutely committed to getting something that’s really good for Henley. We want to make sure that what we’re providing now is something that’s fit for the future. That may be different from the model that’s been happening for 25 years but we’re not at a stage where we know one way or another.
“Whatever we do, we need to do something that offers the widest benefit for the people of Henley.”
Dr Burnett said there would be far more “health gain” by providing good services that patients could use for the day rather than staying for several.
The emergency multi–Â disciplinary unit was a model already used in Oxfordshire. The aim is to provide assessment and treatment for adult patients with sub–acute care needs as close as possible to their homes.
Providing medical, nursing and therapy assessments and treatments, the unit should offer patients a faster and more convenient alternative to admission to an acute hospital.
Dr Burnett said: “That’s the sort of model we’re looking to replicate in Henley. It’s a model of care that’s recognised as being the right way to look after older people who become unwell.”
There could also be treatment for chemotherapy patients and blood tests could be carried out on site.
Henley MP John Howell said: “This situation has arisen as a result of conversations between the Clinical Commissioning Group and GPs.
“They are interested in ensuring we have the best health care in the area and we need to listen carefully to what they are proposing and make up our own minds.
“Any changes in the number of beds would be seen as a change in the reprovision of existing services and I have confirmed with the minister of health that any such change would require a public consultation and he has confirmed that.”
The commissioning group was due to reveal more about what services will be provided at the meeting at Henley town hall last night.
Councillor Ian Reissmann, chairman of the Townlands Steering Group, would not comment on the issue of the beds.
He said: “The commissioning group is looking at what is the best service to provide there and they will be explaining their thinking and their options. The steering group will be listening as carefully as everyone else to the detail of the proposals.”
Mayor Martin Akehurst, who sits on the steering group, said he wasn’t aware of the change in thinking, adding: “If this is the case, then there are some serious questions.
“When I was at Townlands before Christmas it appeared to me that 18 beds were being used. If they are being used now I don’t see any case for cutting them down.”
This is the latest twist in the saga over what should be provided at Townlands.
Last week the Henley Standard revealed that the company responsible for redeveloping the hospital could face legal action for an alleged breach of contract.
The threat to Amber Infrastructure comes from a developer which was chosen to create 44 homes at the site but was then told it was no longer wanted.
It was thought that Beechcroft Developments had pulled out of the scheme but in fact the Wallingford firm is considering legal action if it can’t reach a settlement with Amber.
When the hospital redevelopment plans were unveiled in 2012, Beechcroft was chosen to create 32 assisted–living properties for the elderly and another 12 homes for key workers.
In December Sue Ryder announced it would not be moving its hospice in Nettlebed to the top floor of the new hospital currently being built.
This was followed in the New Year by the news that doctors from the Bell and Hart surgeries had lost the contract to care for patients at Townlands.
Since then talks have been taking place which could mean the GPs would still be involved.